From the Director November 2017

Shaker Library Facility and Funding Update

Shaker Library belongs to the residents of Shaker Heights. It was conceived and built through the efforts of generations of Shaker residents. Shaker Library is one of Shaker Heights’ most valuable civic assets and the Shaker Library Board is charged with protecting it and ensuring it provides benefits and services to current and future generations of Shaker residents.

As its Director, one of my most important jobs is to regularly update our community about the health of their Library.

I’m happy to report that Shaker Library is one of the best library systems in America. We are fiscally sound and in 2016, Shaker Library was ranked in the the top 2% of libraries its size nationally. Four out of five residents use Shaker Library annually, and more than half use it at least once a month. In 2016, Shaker Library users borrowed nearly one million items and visited our Library nearly half a million times.

Shaker Library is serving Shaker well and we are working hard to ensure it can continue to do so.

In 2014, Shaker Library completed a comprehensive building assessment that concluded that its facilities need $5.1 million in repairs and maintenance. These needs may not seem obvious at first, but they have significantly affected library services. Problems with the Main Library’s HVAC system regularly make the library either too hot or too cold for visitors. At times, the Main Library has been forced to close because of its HVAC challenges. Leaks in the roof threaten to damage the library’s collection, and last year a problem with a sewer line created a stench in the library’s lowest level.

Throughout 2015 and 2016, we worked to find the right answer to our facilities challenges. We held a series of public meetings, gathered feedback from residents, worked with architects and engineers, and conducted an extensive study of seven possible solutions. The options we studied varied dramatically and included drastically curtailing library operations, consolidating library services into a single, new facility, and investigating whether Shaker Library should become part of the Cuyahoga County Public Library system – a process that Ohio law calls “inclusion.”

We learned a lot during this process. Initially, the Library Board and staff preferred the idea of building a single, new library to replace the existing Main Library and Bertram Woods Branch. Shaker residents, however, thought differently, preferring that we upgrade and continue operating our two current locations. We listened and shifted our thinking.

In December 2016, the Library Board unanimously decided to repair and renovate both library facilities, which will create important opportunities and benefits for Shaker residents, including:

  • Improved meeting and community gathering spaces.
  • Greater convenience and accessibility throughout the Library.
  • Adaptable rooms that can be reconfigured to meet group learning and collaboration needs.
  • Up-to-date technology and trained staff to help residents use it.
  • Tools to ensure that all residents can connect with the digital world.

Throughout 2017, we have worked on refining our plans and finding ways to minimize our costs, while ensuring Shaker residents receive the Library services they want and deserve.

Throughout its 80-year history, Shaker Library’s goal has been to maximize Shaker’s return on investment and deliver the best-possible library services at the lowest possible cost. As thoughtful stewards of taxpayer dollars, we have worked hard to minimize what Shaker Library asks of taxpayers. Shaker Library receives a tiny portion of Shaker Heights property tax revenue. Shaker Library’s 4.0 voted mills is just 2% of Shaker’s total property tax millage and is below the average tax millage of the nine public libraries in Cuyahoga County that have property tax levies.

Since 2008, the revenue Shaker Library receives from the State of Ohio has decreased by 19% and revenue from local property taxes has declined by 18%. As a result, Shaker Library’s revenue is now the lowest it has been in 10 years. Instead of asking voters for more money to make up for these decreases, Shaker Library cut costs, including reducing its staff by 16%.

 We can’t upgrade our facilities, however, just by cutting costs. So, in the coming weeks the Shaker Library Board will vote on placing a small millage increase on the May 2018 ballot.

The small increase our Board will vote to approve will be the first millage increase for Shaker Library in over 20 years. The last time the Library asked for an increase in millage was in 1997.

The cost of this increase to Shaker Heights property owners would be $67 per $100,000 of home value—a little more than 18¢ per day. Two-thirds of the funds this levy would generate would be allocated to repairing and upgrading the Library’s facilities. The remaining one-third of the funds would pay for library operating expenses, including adding year-round Sunday hours.

In the coming weeks, Shaker Library will make presentations to Shaker Heights City Council and the Shaker Heights Board of Education to discuss its intentions for the future. We will keep you updated regularly on our progress and look forward to talking with you more about the benefits of an upgraded, independent Shaker Library.

Amy L. Switzer
Director, Shaker Heights Public Library